The plane, which belonged to the head of a private military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, recently crashed in the Tver region. According to reports, Prigozhin himself and the company's founder, Dmitry Utkin, were on the raid. And, although the DNA examination has not yet confirmed the identity of the dead, the death of the leader of the "Wagnerites" was actually confirmed personally by Putin.
What versions of the disaster are being considered and what message it can carry for the Russian elites, said TSN correspondent Ekaterina Fedorchenko.
The plane, on the raid of which, according to the documents, was the top of the PMC "Wagner", fell apart in the air. Experts put forward two possible versions of what happened: an explosion on board or a missile being knocked down from the ground.
The crash of Prigogine's plane / Photo: Associated Press
The bodies of the dead - three crew members and seven passengers - are taken for examination, the persons will be established by DNA. In addition to ordinary "Wagnerians", the lists of passengers include the names of two leaders of the organization at once - Yevgeny Prigozhin and PMC founder Dmitry Utkin.
Despite the fact that there is no official confirmation that they died, this is actually confirmed by dictator Putin. He speaks of Prigogine, who two months ago led his mercenaries to Moscow, only in the past tense: "He was a man of difficult fate, and his mistakes were serious in life, he achieved the necessary results - both for himself and when I asked him for it."
Yevgeny Prigozhin: who he is and how did he know Putin
Putin and his 'former chef' Prigozhin / Photo: Associated Press
"Putin's chef," as Prigogine was called, is a restaurateur who met the future Russian president back in the 90s and quickly expanded his business. He received supply contracts from the Department of Defense and public schools. And 10 years ago he founded his private army, which left a bloody mark in many countries, including Ukraine.
A combat unit of former security officers, often with a criminal past, began operating in Crimea and Donbas in spring 2014. The downing of the IL-76 at the Luhansk airport and the battle for Debaltseve - the "Wagnerites" were involved in these operations at the first stage of the war.
Yevgeny Prigogine / Photo: TASS
Subsequently, PMC militants are transferred to Syria, where Russia entered the war. But in March 2022, when it was not possible to take Kyiv in three days, Putin returns the Wagnerites to Ukrainian front. The capture of Popasna, the capture of neighboring Severodonetsk and Lysychansk exhaust the company. The Wagnerites begin to massively recruit prisoners in Russian prisons, recruiting about 50 thousand. Almost half of them will die during the battles for Soledar and Bakhmut.
Prigogine's conflict with the Russian Ministry of Defense
At the end of 2022, Prigozhin came into conflict with the Russian Ministry of Defense, complaining about the lack of ammunition. In response, the name "Wagner" disappears from the Russian media, and the General Staff attributes to itself the successes of the "Wagnerites" on the battlefield.
Prigozhin had a conflict with the Russian Ministry of Defense
The mutual accusations continued for several more months until Wagner was officially banned from recruiting prisoners in the spring. The Russian Defense Ministry demands that mercenaries sign contracts with him. In the end, instead of losing the remnants of his army, Prigozhin withdraws the "Wagnerites" from Bakhmut by his own decision and continues to publicly disgrace the command of the Russian army. The main thing that the mercenary leader said at the time was that on February 24, Russia had no reason to launch a full-scale offensive against Ukraine.
A criminal case is being opened against the rebels. The Wagner office is being searched, but the mercenaries still do not reach Moscow - they stop 200 kilometers away. Prigozhin allegedly persuaded Lukashenko, who spoke with both the owner of the Wagnerites and the Russian president during the day, to retreat.
"Wagner" in Belarus
Militants are being moved to Belarus, the case against Prigozhin is being closed - even 10 billion rubles seized during searches are returned. For two months relative silence reigns - the "Wagnerites" train with the Belarusian military, Prigozhin intensifies his activities abroad.
Air crash of Prigogine's plane
The crash with Prigogine's plane takes place exactly two months after the riot attempt. Many Western experts emphasize that Putin personally ordered this execution. And this could have been his warning, including to Russian elites.
The remains of Prigogine's plane / Photo: Associated Press
The Kremlin habitually rejects all accusations - they say that the investigation will establish the cause of deaths. The "Wagnerites", who were left without the top, are in no hurry to proclaim revenge yet. And Lukashenko, who two months ago said that he stopped Prigozhin's rebellion, guaranteeing his safety, hastily corrects himself and assures that there were no guarantees.
What will happen to "Wagner" next
So far, the further fate of Prigozhin's private army remains unknown. In some regions of Russia, mass graves of militants are already being demolished. And world experts emphasize that no matter what happened to the leader of the terrorist organization and whatever application the Kremlin chooses for it, it seems that the army of the "Wagnerites" will no longer be independent of Moscow.
▶ On the TSN YouTube channel, you can watch the video at this link: "When death is only a message! The latest information about the loud "plane crash"